The alignment of your team is critical for the success of your company and for your success as a top leader. At the same time, countless and costly hours of debate may be the only result you can see when your team gets deadlocked. When should you “step in”? How do you balance efficiency with efficacy?
Sometimes the consequences of a decision are so extreme that a team can feel uncertain about taking this responsibility. Some teams can suffer from perfectionism: they try to reach the ‘perfect’ solution, but fail to find it because it doesn’t exist.
So you have a dilemma: you see that the team is going around in circles and want to stop wasting time, energy and money in redundant debates, and at the same time you worry about possibly undermining agreement and mutual commitment if you step in authoritatively.
Here are four strategies from Aad Boot of Leadershipwatch (2012), when your team gets stuck and you want to break the indecisiveness without destroying team participation, alignment and commitment:
HAVE A PROCESS AGREED UPON: We all know that it is not advisable to unexpectedly jump in and overrule the team, and we also know that at times that is your best option. Prepare together upfront for the possibility that the team cannot come to a decision and decide on a procedure which includes the use of a designated process moderator and a “last-ditch” strategy of your authoritative intervention.
FACILITATE THE SHARING OF ALL THOUGHTS, FEELINGS AND OPTIONS: Indecisiveness of teams is often caused by a lack of knowing and understanding each other’s opinions, perceptions, suggestions, etc. Check actively if everything is on the table and there is agreement about each others’ meaning. If not, there is still a lack of team alignment and you can make the team aware of it and continue to guide the team to alignment. If there is agreement upon meanings and the team acknowledges it, they will more readily accept your stepping in to make a decision.
FOCUS ON THE BIG PICTURE: Sometimes a team can get stuck because the members don’t see the broader picture. As leader, you generally gave a wider perspective and can communicate it to the team, identifying the common interest, explaining the broader picture and showing how your decision is important and will serve the common interest.
GET YOUR EGO OUT OF THE WAY: The word “courage” comes from the French “coeur” (heart), and requires us to show vulnerability with our resolve and assertiveness. When you do make a decision, be sure that it is based on your responsibility and not on your desire to wield power. And make sure to explain to all of them how and why it is based on the former and not on the latter.
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